Mold, natural ways to treat exposure
January 26 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Mold definition : a fungus that causes disintegration of organic matter. There are many types of fungi that are considered molds, one example is Penicillium that causes mold on bread or cheese. Other types of molds can grow on walls or ceilings in wet and warm areas. Many homes in New Orleans had toxic mold grown on their walls after the hurricane and floods.

Do molds cause illness?
Illnesses resulting from mold-exposure are common and important, but some of what's currently being blamed on mold exposure is not supported by good medical evidence. A fungus can cause illness through three known mechanisms: by generating a harmful immune reaction in the host (allergies for example); by direct infection; and by releasing toxic or irritating byproducts. For each one of these categories, there is scientific evidence to establish mold as a genuine cause of illness, but hypothesized associations have also been made, especially concerning indoor molds. The role of indoor mold to upper airway allergies is still not fully understood. While ingesting large quantities of mold from contaminated or spoiled food can lead to serious illnesses, there is little scientific evidence proving that inhaling toxins from molds has harmful effects on health. Concerns have also been raised as to whether mold exposure could induce disorders of immune regulation. However the published literature in this regard is of particularly poor quality and should not be relied on as scientifically valid.... for now. In some cases, using blood tests to measure antibodies to mold allergens, or sampling air for mold spores can be useful. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2006.

Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2013. The role of fungi in allergic diseases. Allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, asthma, airborne dermatitis, or allergic conjunctivitis, can be caused or aggravated by components of bioaerosol from natural environment or from indoor environment in enclosed spaces, workplaces and homes. The main components of bioaerosol are fungi and their metabolites, which are common in the environment.

Int J Infectious Diseases. 2014. Invasive filamentous fungus infection with secondary cerebral vasculitis in a patient with no obvious immune suppression. Invasive mold infections represent an emerging and important diagnostic challenge, especially in immunocompetent patients when microscopy and cultures of the biological fluids remain negative. A central nervous system localization is not common and the clinical presentation is aspecific.

Mold and Asthma
Mold and dampness in homes are significant risk factors for recurrent wheezing in infants at high risk of allergic disorders, whereas house dust mite exposure does not significantly increase the risk. "In most studies that investigate the association of mold or water damage and respiratory disorders in infants, the analysis is not adjusted for exposure to house dust mite, which is also a known cause of respiratory illnesses," Dr. Tiina Reponen, of the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, and colleagues write in the latest issue of the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. As part of a study in infants of parents with allergies, the researchers performed on-site home visits when the infants were 8 months old to assess visible mold or water damage and levels of house dust mite allergen. The 640 infants in the study had a first clinic visit at an average age of 13 months. During this visit, the team took medical histories, including parent-reported wheezing episodes, and performed skin prick tests for exposure to food allergens, substances known to trigger allergic responses in susceptible individuals, and 15 common airborne allergens. The team found that 51 percent of homes had minor water damage or mold problems and 5 percent had major conditions. Only 16 percent of homes had house dust mite allergen levels high enough to cause an allergic response. The risk of recurrent wheezing was increased nearly two-fold in infants who lived in homes with major mold or water damage. The risk was five times greater in infants with reactions to food or airborne allergens and six times greater in infants with reactions to airborne allergens. Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, October 2006.

Reduce or prevent mold growing in your home
Mold is a common fungus that can invade a home and cause allergy symptoms such as runny nose, sneezing and cough. Here are some steps you can take to reduce the mold problem:
In bathrooms, install an exhaust fan or open a window when showering to prevent moisture build-up.
Repair a plumbing leak quickly
Carpets in bathrooms can retain moisture, therefore it is a good idea not to have carpets in the bathroom
Scrub bathtubs and sinks at least monthly, preferably with a bleach-based cleaner to kill mold.
Clean garbage cans regularly.
On humid days, use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air.

Essential oil of thyme and thymol could be used for disinfection of moldy walls in the dwellings in low concentration.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests how to keep mold growth at a minimum:
Take care of any leaks and areas of dampness or mold.
Clean mold on hard surface with soap and water.
Allow the area to dry completely.
Open windows or run an exhaust fan when cooking, showering or washing dishes.
Keep humidity levels throughout your home at 30 percent to 50 percent.

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology provides these tips for mold allergy sufferers: Mold can creep into your home, causing symptoms including sneezing, coughing and watery eyes to those who are allergic.
When mold counts are high, stay indoors.
Don't rake leaves.
Keep your distance from fields with uncut grass.
After you've been outside, immediately shower to wash away mold spores.
Promptly fix any water leaks to prevent mold growth. If you have mold, clean with a vinegar solution.
Keep the humidity in your home below 60 percent.
If your basement has carpeting, remove it in favor of a surface that doesn't retain moisture.

Natural dietary supplements
Alpha Lipoic acid as a potential first agent for protection from mycotoxins and treatment of mycotoxicosis.
Arch Environ Health. 2003.
Mycotoxins -- toxic substances produced by fungi or molds -- are ubiquitous in the environment and are capable of damaging multiple biochemical mechanisms, resulting in a variety of human symptoms referred to collectively as "mycotoxicosis." In fact, mycotoxins mimic multiple xenobiotics, not only with respect to their ultimate damage, but also in their routes of detoxification. This suggests potential therapeutic options for the challenging treatment of mycotoxicosis. In this brief review, the author examines the use of alpha lipoic acid as an example of an inexpensive and available nutrient that has been shown to protect against, or reverse, the adverse health effects of mycotoxins.

Q. I was hoping you could direct my thoughts a bit. I have a son who is extremely healthy, but during the moldy periods in our weather his eyes burn and itch, which then causes him to blink *a lot*. I've had his eyes checked and his vision and eye health are fine. After watching his reactions to the weather I'm pretty certain this is a mold allergy. I've found a lot of herbs that would be useful for general allergic reactions to mold, but I was hoping I could find something specifically for the eyes.
   A. We are not familiar with an herb that would be effective for mold allergy. Avoidance to mold exposure is the best option.

Q. Would appreciate your thoughts on mold exposure. What are the best herbs to cleanse the body and for how long? Oregon grape extract? Olive leaf extract? Colloidal silver?

Q. Any particular supplements that would help detox a person subjected to chronic toxic black mold (basement). Symptoms are ms-like (numbness, gait, balance, etc.). I read about products such as brown seaweed and zeolite to assist in detoxification but don’t know if there is truth in what I’ve read. You and your staff seems to on top of most subjects and issues, so I thought I’d ask. Your website and supplement info is fantastic. Any thoughts on the black mold issue would be helpful.
   A. We have not seen extensive research on the topic of black mold and natural treatment for this exposure. Consider eating an optimal diet and improve lifestyle factors to the best of your ability. See diet for suggestions. Lipoic acid may be helpful.

Q.  I have developed a severe mold allergy over the last several years since I moved to Florida and now have asthma as well. Apparently mold loves the high humidity & hot weather. Are there areas in the US that are better to live for people with this issue? I have heard California is good? How about New England?
   A. I have not studied this topic in detail but any dry, desert-like area appears to be a good option.

I seem to be a person very sensitive to ‘mold’ in my environment. I have had a M.S. diagnosis back in the 80s and for quite some time have been enduring ‘fatigue’ that an steady exercise program hasn’t improved upon. I am in my 50s with some menopausal symptoms so it isn’t easy to determine the true root of my fatigue issue. This year I began having fleeting ‘flu-like’ symptoms that would come and go too randomly to actually be the flu but left me with thumb joint inflammation in both hands. Currently those symptoms have abated and seem more severe in cooler weather. Two years ago I switched schools and my current art room has had a history of severe roof leakage problems. Two summers ago the district attempted to fix the problem by gutting the ceiling and replacing insulations, tiles, etc. But the roof still leaks particularly in two areas. Both areas the ceiling tiles have turned black. One area has a panel on the wall that is bowed inward. I did point out my concerns to the facilities manager but they were basically dismissed or ignored. Arizona schools are in a state of crisis with a state budget that is nearly going bankrupt. My classroom is a 40 year old portable that should have been replaced years ago but wasn’t obviously. About the only solution would be to empty out the classroom and put art on a cart which is extremely undesirable. I am considering the pros and cons of not renewing my contract with the school district. Due to changes with the economy and various other factors changing schools is not available to employees. I either stay in my current position or leave the district with considerable uncertainty considering the economy. I guess I am writing to know if you think I could co-exist better with the status quo of the building if I invested (using my own money) in one or two portable air filtering systems and bought for my classroom high grade A/C filters like the Filtrete brand. I am very much into trying to maintain my health and when I look at my ceiling tiles I am troubled by worry. I don’t know if stepping up the air filtering system in the classroom would be merely a band-aid to the problem.
    This is an area I have not studied in enough detail to know whether a filter system such as Filtrete has benefits.